Monday, 21 November 2016

Transformers Masterpiece MP-11NT Thrust Review

Transfomers masterpiece Thrust MP-11NT  review
Masterpiece Thrust is the boogeyman and he's in your nightmares, Spike

A Takara Tomy Mall exclusive, which basically means "bloody expensive", Masterpiece Thrust is the second of the original cone heads to get a Masterpiece figure following the much troubled Ramjet. Beset by quality control problems, Ramjet put me off pre-ordering Thrust right until the final week when I buckled and consoled myself with "well, at least there's only one more to go", which is a crazy thought process when you consider just how much money these Masterpiece cone heads will set you back.

Takara's Masterpiece seeker mould is old hat at this point and the thought of going over it again has prompted me to have a rummage through the kitchen drawers for as much paracetamol as I could find, buried beneath expired light bulbs, batteries, novelty pens, World Cup 2010 football stickers and instruction books for a bread maker that I don't think has been in our house since somewhere circa 2013. I did find the adapter for my football pump though - so that's a win.

So did Thrust surprise and finally make good on all the promise of that Masterpiece seeker mould we are all getting quite sick of, or did he validate our worst fears and turn out a horrible mess?

Continue after the jump to see the full review of Transformers MP-11NT Masterpiece Thrust





masterpiece thrust vtol jet

Being one of 6 versions of the F-15 mould has never prevented Thrust from being one of the most memorable Transformers. Whether his unique look found a corner of the imagination to make it's own, or the toy was just available in abundance - Thrust is a character many people instantly recognise.

And why wouldn't he be? A demonic looking red and black jet with fans on the wings isn't your standard grey, black, or blue interchangeable Decepticon jet.  Unicron is a character designed with serious mephistolian influence but Thrust is right there with him which is not an insignificant achievement for a retool. If Santa started listening to Norwegian death metal and opted to retire Rudolph and the gang - this is exactly what he'd fly. Oh man, stick a bit of wool on the top of his head in bot mode and he's got a perfect Santa hat.

YES.

transformers masterpiece thrust jet f-15 eagle

Entire new wing assemblies make an apologetic attempt to justify the obscenely high price point and elbow drop feelings of "but I  already own this mould umpteen times" back down into the pit of your something. At £160 we are pushing the upper limit of Masterpieces go for and it's even more galling when you see the MP 11 Starscream mould being reissued at a cost of almost a third less, but then Masterpiece Thrust can't be repainted into 3 new characters, there is a cost of tweaking the mould to get from Ramjet to Thrust and then on to Dirge - which is really what you are paying for. Begrudgingly in my case.

At least being this pretty makes it easier. Decked out in a gorgeous dark red, black and grey paint job, Takara have taken their inspiration from the cartoon (quelle surprise) but it's in no way detrimental. The Thundercracker strikers and vent stickers are lost but the it only serves to strengthen the demonic presence this toy has and suits the much larger scale of this Masterpiece toy over the vintage figure.

It all comes together to look so menacing which is a look Thrust especially has always carried, despite being as bright as that empty bottle of rum in my recycling bin that I wish was still full. Or at least had enough for a cheeky one.

takara masterpiece thrust vtol jet

After owning the MP seeker mould many times over, one of my biggest gripes is that it always feels flimsy and you have to repeatedly massage parts into place at a rate that would Make Swayze in Ghost raise an eyebrow. Not ready to make ceramic cookie jars with phantasms just yet, I've been relieved that Masterpiece Thrust appears to lock together more solidly than any other iteration of the MP Seeker mould I've owned. His right wing can take some brute force to get into place on mine and it still uses that ludicrous system where the wings slot onto tabs on the robot mode biceps but once in place they seem to stay in place - not something you can always say about the gojillion (I wonder if the Bank of England use that term as a measurement) Masterpiece seekers we've had.

My Ramjet for example, that fools wing constantly pops apart in one particular place which causes me to grumble profusely to the point my girlfriend refers to me as an old man. Because of toys.
His landing gear bay door also falls off at the merest hint that it might be opened but thankfully Takara appears to have fixed that for Thrust whose bit's all stay attached. He would be relieved.

Incidentally, Ramjet is probably the only Masterpiece figure where I've genuinely felt regret from buying it. It's the rare toy that felt like Takara weren't paying attention at all and got almost everything wrong. QC was atrocious with many people (including myself) getting figures that were incorrectly assembled (twice in my case) and that swish veneer that tends to lace Takara MP figures had been rubbed back.

Ooooh bonus Masterpiece Ramjet review - it's terrible.

transformers masterpiece thrust null ray

Feature wise Masterpiece Thrust comes with a couple of tricks. Standard air brake and movable engine nozzles are still a thing, whilst he also retains the same rear landing gear popping out of the worlds most colossal wrestling knee pads as Ramjet. Thrust's nosecone still opens to reveal a radar assembly and one of the few accessories Takara stingily added is another holo pilot card from Fox's glacier mint. Being clear, there's not a lot of detail and I am not sure which human agencies would be fooled by a corporeal pilot spirIt flying an experimental military jet. You can tell he is supposed to be a pilot but that's the extent of what the poor guy has going for him.

Dr Arkeville wants his job back.

More interestingly than the usual MP seeker guff is the new features that Masterpiece Thrust does come with. First, his signature VTOL fans can spin and his wings can pivot up and down in jet mode as well as robot mode due to the new, bespoke wing assembly. Pegged into those wings are two smart bombs which exist purely to replicate his animation model and lead to the last, and most awesomely weird change - folding null rays.

In the cartoon, Thrust had the standard seeker null rays in robot mode but they inexplicably vanished in jet mode which clearly Takara viewed as something they had to replicate. Nobody would have cared or noticed but if Takara have taught us anything lately it's that there is no length they won't go to to give you cartoon accuracy. And why shouldn't they when you are paying this kind of insane money for a figure like this? It's a fun addition that most people will roll their eyes at but I appreciate the very subtle change it offers - after all that's usually what I go to Takara for.

transformers masterpiece thrust pilot

Masterpiece Thrust's jet mode succeeds in every single way Ramjet's doesn't. Animation based colours cover the toy in something that implies character and emotions, everything holds together solidly and doesn't feel like it's desperate to explode and finally the new parts make the toy look so completely distinct it feels new.

It may have cost more than I would usually feel comfortable shelling out for a toy (especially at a time when my boiler decided to conk out and take a winter break) but the jet mode is so perfectly done that it's hard to feel anything other than like I got exactly what I wanted.

transformers masterpiece thrust mp-11nt

Masterpiece Thrust's transformation will be a familiar process to anyone who has ever owned any of the Masterpiece seeker - but a couple of new tricks tickle the heart.

Null rays fold out to perch on the arm in classic seeker style, new rear stabiliser fins (which look incredible) rotate to keep the animation look as the new wings slide up from the calves and hang low to give Thrust his novel silhouette.  Like Ramjet, Thrust features an addition to the cockpit transformation with sees it swivel to give him his signature cone head but it's the only transformation step they share that isn't found on the regular seekers.

Masterpiece seekers have long suffered from the torso not really locking into place, but it seems Takara have fixed this with Thrust as his upper torso (at least on mine) seems to click in two places which means the arms rotate without the whole assembly moving with them. Is that new? I've checked all my other seekers, including Ramjet, and they don't seem to have these extra clicks...so bravo I guess.

Oh if you are wondering what happens to those smart bombs, do they transform or something as cool as the null rays...nope - they just spin round on the peg so they can be hidden.

transformers masterpiece thrust chip chase
"You...pile of reject parts!"
For all the praise I've heaped on the jet mode, when I first opened the box and freed Thrust from his plastic prison I hated this toy. A huge wave of crushing disappointment crashed over me as his waist flopped like a giant bobble head. Instantly my expectation of it being just as much of a let down as Ramjet seemed to have been confirmed. It all seemed to stem from a large pin at his waist not being in far enough and no amount of squashing the figure seemed to fix it. He just stood there on my desk, back permanently arched as if someone was throwing him a cricket ball he couldn't reach.

Fast forward to transforming him to jet mode and back and the problem seems to have alleviated by about 70% and I have no idea how, why or what. It's still shakier than it should be but having seen the extreme it was in to start with this feels like one of those lottery wins where you get the email to say "We have news about your ticket!" only to discover you've only won about £2.40. Sure, it's better than nothing so I am kinda happy, but I would still have liked enough to buy a G1 Fort Max.

transformers masterpiece thrust face
"Reject parts?!? HAHAHA"
Looking for all the world like a giant robotic Venger from Dungeons and Dragons - Thrust is magnificent. Red and black is usually a sure sign of baddie potential, and combined with the pointy black hat and vents it brings out even more of the demonic styling. If you sit back and fuzz your eyes enough, the air intakes almost form an ostentatious collar that crawls down the chest to give Thrust a devilish waist coat that then flows out to the sides with the wings acting as a Dracula-esque cape.

It ticks every single box I have. Twice.

Thrust's face with the grey pall sliding over it and evil yellow eyes is again very Venger-ish, Was he pulling double duty by trying to prevent some lost kids getting back to a theme park? He gets his own unique face too which is not just a palette swap of MP Ramjet's weird Terry Crews inspired face. Sculpting a swooshing, sneering mouth adds character beyond the standard fare of the neutral expression. He doesn't look like he just there to stand on your shelf - he looks disgusted at you for daring to consign him to this role. There's always been something special about Thrust, something deeper than just the brainless dolt he's always portrayed as in fiction. It's like I look at his design and it's so visually interesting I can see more to the character lurking beneath the surface - something that's never been properly tapped.

Deep down I still wish they'd tint the cockpit canopy, preferably yellow, so it would at least hide the ridiculous painted seat which looks like an un-ironed tie - but you can't have everything right?

transformers mp-11nt masterpiece thrust face
Masterpiece Ramjet and Masterpiece Thrust. Two point peas in a pod
Sunbow drew the cone heads as stockier than the original seeker trio. They always looked more like the muscle than Starscream, Thundercracker and Skywarp whose proportions always suggested an underlying tone of deceit. Each of those looked more athletic and dynamic and it fit with the characters all being the types who would run from a fight. It's something so fundamental to the Transformers mythos, that you could pick up character traits from cues in the characters designs and it's something Takara have managed to capture with the Masterpiece cone heads despite them using broadly the same bodies as the stock MP 11 beneficiaries.

A controversial addition has been the mahoosive knee animation accurate white and purple knee pads but it's those that are responsible for reshaping Masterpiece Thrust and Ramjet' proportions. Shrinking his legs, it may be an optical illusion but it puts him in line with how he looked in the old Transformers Universe profile book I used to read under the covers with a torch when I was supposed to be asleep as a kid.

Pull the knee pads forward and the black detailing disappears into his legs, push them back in and the black detailing pops back out. Why not? It's a silly, pointless feature - but it pops a smile on my jaded face.

transformers mp-11nt masterpiece thrust takara
Thrust's nightmare fuel
Articulation is as you'd expect from a Masterpiece seeker - not very good.

Sounds harsh when you consider the sheer array of joints he has that should be able to facilitate movement, but so much hinders it and non of it is as dynamic as you'd want from characters who had some of the most visually awe inspiring movements on the show.  Running and leaping into transformation mid air into jet mode then spiralling up into flight, coming into land before converting into bot mode mid run with skipping a beat...all this stuff caught my imagination as a kid and made the characters feel alive. As well as looking super cool.

It may sound silly but that is so much of what made me fall in love with Transformers as kid.

Non of these problems are specifically Thrust's fault but it does show how the base mould has lost that impressive feeling it once had when first revealed and now feels out dated compared to the new, hyper articulate figures Takara regularly puts out. Those awful penguin hands are still a thing, feet don't balance well....we really need new updated versions of the jets.

Or maybe we don't because there's only one left, Dirge and that finishing line is now clearly in my line of sight. My wallet can't go through this again.

takara masterpiece ramjet thrust

If you are looking for features and accessories then you are out of luck. Takara has dialled back on those with it's super expensive jets recently. Removing the stands, missiles, Megatron gun and whatever else it can find. It's amazing the holo pilot survived. Or did he? Maybe he didn't and that's why he's clear - he's literally meant to be a ghost and Dirge will just come with a miniature holo coffin for him. I'd approve of that subtle brilliance of trolling.

Takara's Masterpiece Thrust still features the pectoral missiles....so that's a thing if anyone was worried that Takara had withdrawn that particular "headline" feature.

Quality control is miles better than Ramjet with tidy paint and tight joints - other than the waist. His null rays are also on a new, thinner connector piece which is really tight but makes me super paranoid about breaking it - so be careful. I came into this review expecting to spend ages on my Soapbox ranting about qc after Ramjet but Thrust has so little to moan about , except that waist, that I am almost disappointed. Imagine if Rocky had run through all that snow to battle Ivan Drago and then gotten there to find he'd quit boxing to take up dentistry - he'd be disappointed.

Although really I am relieved because if I haven't mentioned it enough yet, I still can't get over the high price Takara is charging for these things.

takara transformers masterpiece thrust ramjet

So what's the conclusion? Dirge.

Ha!

For many collectors Dirge is the full stop on the Masterpiece seeker story. Other than obscure repaints like Acid Storm and the other rainmakers there isn't any more mileage that Takara can get out of it's stalwart figure. So what does that mean? They'll move on to other new characters? Haaaa, yeah right. The seekers are an easy money spinner as they can design one figure and get three straight must have characters out of it, and three more with a bit of trickery so it will probably mean they'll create a brand new "definitive" version sometime in the future.

Thrust may be, in my opinion, the best example of the Masterpiece seeker mould to date, but there are so many problems inherent to a now tired and outdated feeling base. Masterpiece Thrust's jet mode is magnificent and his robot mode looks great if all you want to do is stand him on a shelf. Try posing him though and whilst it's not the worst experience in the world, the limitations of a 10 year old design are plainly evident and clash with what we expect from high end modern toys.

It's nice to be near the end of the Masterpiece seekers, and Thrust has re-lit my enthusiasm for Dirge but it's impossible not to wonder what modern engineering on a new toy designed from the ground up, rather than just a bit of spit shine on a reliable old workhouse, could really give us.

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2 comments:

  1. Nice review, I got a good Ramjet (fixed from tfsource) and he's really solid. Sucks yours wasn't, hard enough to stomach these guys without bad qc. I can't wait for Thrust, he'll be coming soon enough i think

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    1. Thanks mate - glad you enjoyed it. My Ramjet had to be returned because he had two of the same hip panels meaning one was comically pointing upwards as they are actually mirrored parts. The second one is fine but I felt Ramjet lacked the sheen most Takara Masterpieces come with. If you liked Ramjet then you'll love Thrust. For me, he is the best example of the Masterpiece seekers to date :)

      Can't wait for Dirge!

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